Sunday, February 13, 2011

Standing Up, Speaking Out

I know two things: first, we are made in God’s image and we break one another's hearts when we forget that.  Second, all that is needed for evil to succeed is for those who see it  to stand by and say nothing.

I do racial reconciliation work.  That alone classifies me as a bleeding-heart liberal.   So be it.  I do a small part of the reconciliation work by standing with brothers and sisters of color against racism and prejudice.  As a white woman, I do most of my racial reconciliation work with whites who, like me, live lives based on the many privileges we enjoy because we are white.  Not surprisingly, it's a whole lot easier to convince white people that racism hurts people of color than to lead them toward the knowledge that racism hurts whites, too.

I do another kind of work.  As a woman who lived for many years with systemic familial abuse within my marriage, I also help other women recognize abuse.   I learned that abuse happens in every level of society, even among the rich and privileged.  Many women are afraid within their most intimate relationship and unsafe in their own homes.  

That was me.  I began this work when my own situation fell apart and I was in shock.  On that day I resolved to find my way to the truth about our marriage and family that had always been covered up.  Once I found the truth I began to tell about it and I went on talking until people I knew lined up into two camps: those who believed me and wanted what was best for me, and those who wanted to shut me up and send me back to the abusive relationship.

I have a story to tell.  It doesn't matter what others think of it.   If I can help just one woman recognize an abusive situation and successfully stand against it, I will count a lifetime of work worthwhile.   

Because it turns out the kindest women among us, the empathetic ones who hold themselves responsible when they hurt the feelings of others, are often at high risk for abuse. Abused women are not always helpless women with few options in life, but they are often women who have stopped believing in themselves.  They internalize the denigrating messages they hear in their intimate relationships.   Funny how the root of the word  applies here, isn't it?  One sort of abuse is very much like another; understand one and you begin to understand them all.

As much as I would like to think otherwise, there are people who cannot see the image of God in others; who are intentionally hurtful; whose hurting intentionally goes on behind closed doors so nobody will see and call them to account.  It is easy to become an apologist for abusive people  because they are tormented souls.  It defies comprehension to learn that abusers want the comfort, but despise the comforter.  They can’t see a single thing except their own need!  Except of course when they snap out of it for a time and show something like kindness and compassion to others;  a kindness directed almost always toward someone who will be impressed by it and expect nothing in return.   

I recall the words of Mother Teresa, who said it is hardest to love those in your own family.  It’s certainly true.  But if you or someone you love simply can’t treat a spouse with kindness and empathy, if contempt is served up with your daily meals and you walk on eggs in your own marriage…it’s time for a hard look at what’s going on.  You could be participating in an abusive relationship.

Nobody belongs in that place; I don’t believe God requires it of us.  Incredible as it seems, getting out and moving on is not the worst thing that can happen.  Wasting a lifetime serving as the scapegoat for the sins and furies of a dysfunctional partner, is.  Allowing a partner to denigrate you before the children until all respect for you is gone, is.  Pretending as if your marriage and family life is normal, and expecting the children to pretend not to see what they plainly do see, isIf you can't do another thing, at least try to stop doing that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Whitey Tighties & Mairzy Doats

I knew it was going to be a hysterical shift when I arrived to find the supervisor at the desk, frantically phoning for a replacement day nurse.  Within minutes, the phone--which never seemed to stop--rang again.  I was asked to take an ER report on an incoming patient.  "I haven't even clocked in!" I protested mildly.  Then the call lights started in again, and they never quit, all night long.   

I caught the squeal on the new patient.  Thanks be to God, ER had done the H&P, the off-going nurse stayed long enough to get the admitting assessment, and the patient was alert. 

The rest of the night was a blur of blood vitals and on-the-fly computer charting.  At 0600 I realized we had not had a single Code Brown.  In fact, I had found three (THREE!) patients wearing clean undies.  The one patient who did move the bowels made it to the appropriate porcelain receptacle without incident.  For our unit, this was truly astonishing.

Three of them actually slept through much of the night, but wouldn't you know the other two made up for it in spades.  IV  Lasix at 2300 is not a thing designed to produce a good night's rest.  
The other problem with alert patients is they are difficult to distract when you have to do something unpleasant.  This morning's patient hates injections, which are ordered q12H,  but she has that all worked out.  When the needle begins to pinch, she sings "Mairzy Doats"...out loud!  She was delighted when I sang along;  my Grandmother was quite a fan of Mairzy Doats.  I know all the words.  End of Nasty Injection Time.

Don't you think we ought to adopt Mairzy Doats as the unit theme song?